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University solves seedless watermelon disease vulnerabilities

In a new study, University of Florida scientists appear to have found a way to remove potential disease vulnerabilities known in seedless watermelon varieties, while still retaining flavour.

During the study, funded by the Florida Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, UF/IFAS researchers grafted seedless watermelon onto squash rootstocks. The practice of grafting is a useful tool to manage soilborne diseases. In this case though, researchers were concerned that if they grafted watermelon onto squash rootstocks, they might reduce fruit quality and taste.

According to Xin Zhao, a UF/IFAS Associate Professor of horticultural sciences and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, results showed no loss in taste and major fruit quality attributes, like total soluble solids and lycopene content.

Consumers in taste panels confirmed the flavour remained largely consistent between grafted and non-grafted plant treatments under different production conditions. In addition, compared with the non-grafted seedless watermelons, plants grafted onto the squash rootstocks exhibited a consistently higher level of flesh firmness. Zhao said.


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